Would Heat exceed luxury tax line to bring back Wayne Ellington? Here is what Pat Riley said

Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington gestures after hitting a 3-point shot in a game against Denver last season. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The challenge for the Heat to bring back reserve guard Wayne Ellington has been well documented.

But president Pat Riley hinted Miami may be willing to make a sacrifice to re-sign one of the more prolific 3-point shooters in the league.

Unless Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg find a way to shed salary, the Heat would be forced to cross the luxury tax line for Ellington to return, something many believe owner Micky Arison would be reluctant to do, especially for a roster that needed everything to go right just to be a No. 6 seed.

Riley sounded as if the Heat would be willing to pay the luxury tax, at least for a year, for Ellington.

“There’s no doubt that we want him back,” Riley said at his  year-end news conference a week after the Heat were eliminated from the playoffs in five games by Philadelphia.

“It’s how do we get him back and deal with that … threshold. The tax threshold. If we signed Wayne and he takes us into the tax, then that guy right over there has 15 months to get us out.”

Riley pointed to Elisburg, who shrugged and smiled.

Riley continued, “But we want to sign him, we would love to sign Wayne back. He is pure Heat. He’s a hell of a player. He’s a contemporary player. He’s still young.”

Ellington, 30, made $6.3 million last season while setting a personal best and franchise record with 227 threes. The Heat have Ellington’s early Bird rights, allowing them to exceed the cap and play him 175 percent of his current salary. That means Miami could start Ellington for at much as $10.9 million next season and sign him for up to four years with eight percent raises each year.

The problem is the Heat already have 10 players under contract for about $119 million, well over the projected $101 million salary cap and just $4 million shy of the projected $123 million luxury tax line.

The only way to free up money would be to make a trade and the Heat are expected to be active this offseason, looking to deal long-term contracts while improving the roster.

Coach Erik Spoelstra was very much in line with Riley when asked about Ellington returning for a third season with the Heat.

“I love Wayne and we’re all hopeful of it. And I’m sure Wayne wants to be back,” Spoelstra said last month. “Regardless of whatever scenarios people could have. …  first, I know the visions of my boss. Anything in this league, he can get done. And then, secondly, I know the creativity of Andy Elisburg.”

The scenario is similar to last season when Elisburg had to get creative to fit in Ellington under the salary cap line after agreeing to terms with James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk. But Elisburg found a way to pick up the team option on Ellington’s contract without exceeding the cap by including bonuses in the contracts of Waiters and Olynyk that did not count against the salary cap.

“I understand what’s going on with the salary cap, the luxury tax and all that kind of stuff,” said Ellington, who averaged a career-high 11.2 points this past season. “But I remain confident. That’s just the type of person that I am. I feel like when you want to get something done, there are ways to get things done.”

[Heat offseason Q&A: Tyler Johnson talks about surgically-repaired thumb, his teeth and his impending pay raise]

[Watch Dwyane Wade get rejected by … Chewbacca?]

[Heat Mailbag: Has Boston’s Danny Ainge passed Pat Riley as an executive? That, and more]

[How does Heat package stack up in possible deal for Kawhi Leonard? We take a look]

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The number of head coaching changes in NBA since Erik Spoelstra’s first season is staggering

Miami Heat president Pat Riley and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra at Miami Heat training camp at FAU in Boca Raton in September. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Erik Spoelstra becomes more of a rarity with each coaching firing.

Former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons parted ways today, pushing the number to eight teams that have fired their coach since the start of last season.

More than half of the teams have changed coaches in the last two years and more could come as the playoffs progress. This despite no coaching changes from the end of the 2016-17 season to the start of 2017-18.

Since Spoelstra’s first season as the Heat coach in 2008-09, there have been 131 coaching changes in the league, including interim coaches, and the five remaining openings that will be filled in the coming weeks.

Spoelstra, 47, just completed his 10th season in Miami. The Nets have had nine different coaches and Kings have had eight during that span.

Only San Antonio and Dallas have not changed coaches since Spoelstra’s first season. The Spurs’ Gregg Popovich is the lone head coach who has been with his current team longer than Spoelstra. Spoelstra was hired April 28, 2008, 11 days before the Mavericks put Rick Carlisle in charge.

Popovich has been coaching the Spurs since Dec. 10, 1996.

Spoelstra has credited his longevity to the organization’s stability. Owner Micky Arison and president Pat Riley have run the organization for the last 28 years.

“I’m in one of the most fortunate situations in the league,” Spoelstra once said. “No matter what’s going on with our team I’m always able to quickly get back to a sense of gratitude. I see how unique this organization (is) and my bosses are compared to the rest of the league.”

Van Gundy, who worked for the Heat for 11 seasons, including a little more than two years as a head coach in which Spoelstra was on his staff, was fired today as the head of basketball operations and head coach.

If Van Gundy fills one of the four other openings, it would be his fourth head coaching job, third since Spoelstra took over in Miami. Van Gundy was the Magic head coach from the 2007-08 season until the 2011-12 season.

[Heat to participate in Sacramento summer league before heading to Las Vegas]

[Kelly Olynyk thrives in Heat system; says he’s ready to expand role]

[Heat’s Dion Waiters has advice for Hassan Whiteside: ‘Just bite your tongue’]

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At 73, Heat’s Pat Riley not thinking retirement: ‘Something sucks you back in’


Heat president Pat Riley said ‘there’s always something that brings you back in,’ when thinking about retirement. (Photo Tom D’Angelo)

MIAMI – Something changed for Pat Riley the last two years.

Perhaps it’s the challenge of rebuilding this team, a process that started two summers ago. Or just the fact that about six weeks after his 73rd birthday that competitive flame still burns.

But after saying two years ago that he’s “had thoughts the last couple of years of moving on,” the Miami Heat president did an about face Monday at his postseason news conference on the same question.

“No, no I haven’t,” he said. “Until (owner Micky Arison) comes to me …  you know, I haven’t.”

Then, and now, Riley spoke about something that always “sucks you back in.”

“I‘ve spoken about this before, because I think this happens all the time to players, coaches, executives,” Riley said Monday. “This is my 50th year (in the NBA). There’s always something that brings you back in, there’s something that sucks you back in. You could tell yourself in September, ‘This is my last year.’ But by the end of the season something happens that sucks you back in. ‘I can’t now. I’ve got to make the team better. We have free agency. I’ve got a draft pick. I can’t do this to Micky. I can’t do this.’”

For Riley, this challenge of making the Heat competitive again in the post Big Three era is as difficult as any he’s had.

Riley appeared energized at his postseason news conference Monday, opening with a long statement about how he has had to build, tear down and rebuild several times since arriving in South Florida in 1995. He cited several major moves from the Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway era to the Eddie Jones, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant era to the Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal era to the Big Three to now.

“But my point in going back to Zo and Tim and that first team is what has got us to where we are here today,” he said. “Because between then and now I can’t think about the number of transactions. … 50, 60 transactions across the board.

“When you think about the 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs and the ones not going to the second round, there’s 22 teams that didn’t advance. They’re not happy. They’re just like I am. They’re not happy. Getting beat in the first round … they’re having the same conversations we’re having. That’s why this is a wonderful time and open market. I always go back to the very first trade I made here to get Zo. There are more of those out there. I’m not saying they’re going to happen this year.”

That does not sound like a man ready to ride off into the sunset, even though he did say two years ago he has spoken to Arison about an exit plan.

“I would love to have one of those golden consulting jobs somewhere,” he said. “There’s a few guys around the league that have those jobs. But I say that in jest, because all the men who do that I’m sure they provide a good service. But I’m an active participant, and I want to stay that way to the chagrin of some of you and some people in the organization.”

[Heat’s Dwyane Wade to Sixers’ Ersan Ilyasova: ‘Who are you?’]

[Pat Riley said Erik Spoelstra, Hassan Whiteside need an ‘intervention,’ adds ‘I’m going to try to help both of them’]

[Should Heat take on final year of Carmelo Anthony’s large contract to shed future money?]

Wayne Ellington wants to return to the Heat and they want him back. But it won’t be easy as a salary-cap hurdle looms]

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Goran Dragic selected to play in All-Star Game as Heat finally get some recognition

The Miami Heat were on the team bus Thursday headed to practice when coach Erik Spoelstra learned that Goran Dragic is an All-Star  for the first time in his 10-year career.

Spoelstra waited to inform his point guard, and the rest of his team, wanting to do it just before they hit the court for practice at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The reaction was one of shock and joy.

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic has been named an All-Star for the first time in his 10 year career.
(Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)

“You could see the shock on his face,” Spoelstra said about Dragic. “It’s cool to see a group enjoy someone else’s success. They’re a part of it and Goran even thanked everybody for that. This group is great like that. They can find joy when somebody else is playing well and accomplishing something.”

“It was really nice,” Dragic said about the way he was informed. He then credited his teammates for his highest individual accolade in his NBA career. “All the credit goes to them too because without them this would not be possible. They put me in the right spots so I can give my best and I’m really grateful and thankful for that.”

The All-Star Game is Feb. 18 in Los Angeles. The Heat are also expected to be represented in the 3-point contest on Feb. 17, as Wayne Ellington will reportedly participate in the shooting competition.

“I’m going to send Goran a gift, flowers,” Spoelstra said. “I’m thrilled that he’s going out there to L.A. Invite his family, he’ll have a great weekend. I’m going to watch that 3-point contest, I’ll tell you that much. I cannot guarantee Goran I’ll watch that game.”

Dragic was picked by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to replace Cleveland’s Kevin Love, who suffered a broken hand on Monday. Dragic is Miami’s first All-Star in two years and assures the team that currently holds the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference will not be shut out of the game.

“Hopefully this shows that it’s a byproduct for winning and being recognized for winning,” Spoelstra said. “Goran we feel is an All-Star. We’re just thrilled that he got recognized by the other coaches and he’s going.”

Dragic, 31, is averaging 17.0 points, 4.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds.  He has led the team in assists 21 times and in scoring 18 times, both team-highs and he has been the Eastern Conference Player of the Week twice this season, one of only four players in the league to earn the award multiple times this season. Still, he had accepted he was not going to be in the game and was planning a family getaway to a tropical island.

“I think L.A. is going to be fine,” he said.

Dragic is the first  player from Slovenia to named an All-Star and the honor comes about four months after Dragic led his national team to a stunning EuroBasket championship last summer. He was named MVP of the tournament.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Coming from (a country of) two million people and we have like eight or nine NBA players and I’m the first Slovenian to be on the All-Star team. That’s something huge for me personally and for my country, too.”

Dragic was passed over twice after the starters were revealed, once when the coaches selected the seven reserves from each conference and again this week when Detroit’s Andre Drummond was picked as the replacement for Washington’s John Wall, who underwent knee surgery Wednesday.

The league said Dragic received the most voting points from NBA head coaches among Eastern Conference players who were not selected as reserves or already named as an injury replacement.

Heat center Hassan  Whiteside said Dragic being named an All-Star is “great for the organization.

“They really pulled for him,” he said. “Micky really pulled for him, coach Spo really pulled for him and he made it. So congrats.”

Whiteside was asked if he is frustrated his injuries hurt his All-Star chances.

“It’s tough,” he said. “But what can you do? I’m going to enjoy the rest, though.”

Spoelstra believes Whiteside is close to cracking that All-Star barrier.

“Hopefully one of these days we’ll get Hassan in there, too.” he said. “Hassan is very close as well. I would say if he didn’t miss those games from injury I think the way he started the season I think he would have been worthy of an All-Star bid. He just has to stay patient. Everybody’s journey is different. But I’ll tell you what, he’s getting closer and we’ll get him there one of these days.”

Until today, the Heat were the only team among the top 10 in the East without an All-Star.

Dragic received plenty support on social media, specifically from Heat owner Micky Arison and his former teammate in Miami, Dwyane Wade.

Arison was one of the first to congratulate Dragic on social media.

Wade also chimed in.

Dragic will join Team LeBron in the first year of the new format in which Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Stephen Curry – the two leading vote getters – drafted the teams playground style.

Team LeBron includes James, Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Boston’s Kyrie Irving, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, Washington’s Bradley Beal, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Dragic and Drummond.

George, Dragic and Drummond are injury replacements for DeMarcus Cousins, Love and Wall.

Dragic will be joined at All-Star Weekend by Heat guard Wayne Ellington, who will participate in the 3-point shooting.

Miami (29-22) continues its four-game road trip Friday in Philadelphia (24-24).

[Heat granted $5.5 million cap exception. Here’s what it means]

[Five takeaways: With third place in East on line, Heat fall to Cavaliers despite strong defensive effort]

[Does Dwyane Wade think about finishing his career with the Heat? ‘I have thought about it, of course’]

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Door could open for Heat’s Goran Dragic to be an All-Star with Washington’s John Wall out for six weeks

Heat guard Goran Dragic could make it to L.A. for the All-Star Game if he is chosen as a replacement for John Wall by commissioner Adam Silver. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The news that Washington’s John Wall could miss up to two months because of a knee procedure could impact the Heat in different ways.

With Wall out of the Feb. 18 All-Star game, the door could open for the Heat to have a representative in the game. Miami is the only team among the top eight in the Eastern Conference and top 15 in the NBA without an All-Star.

Heat guard Goran Dragic likely will be strongly considered to replace Wall, who will undergo arthroscopic surgery Wednesday. NBA commissioner Adam Silver will make that selection. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker and Detroit’s Andre Drummond also are strong candidates.

Heat owner Micky Arison immediately went to Twitter to voice his preference.

And Heat players and coach Erik Spoelstra were endorsing Dragic throughout the voting period.

“I think the guy that probably should have received consideration for it would be Goran,” Spoelstra said after it was known Dragic was not voted in by the coaches.

Dragic, 31, never has been an All-Star in his 10-year career. He is averaging 17.0 points, 4.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds this season.

As of now, guard Wayne Ellington is the only member of the Heat headed to L.A. Ellington will be in the 3-point contest, which will be held Jan. 17.

The Heat (29-21) have held onto the No. 4 seed the last week, ahead of the Wizards. Miami defeated Dallas, 95-88, Monday to start a four-game road trip. Washington (27-22) has lost 4-of-6 and dropped into a tie for the No. 5 seed along with Milwaukee (27-22) and Indiana (28-23) 1.5 games behind the Heat. But now the Wizards will be without their four-time All-Star and second leading scorer for a significant amount of time.

Wall is averaging 19.4 points and is second in the league in assists with 9.3 per game. Without Wall, the Wizards will rely heavily on the other half of their All-Star backcourt, Bradley Beal, who leads the team with 23.9 points per game.

The Heat have retained that No. 4 seeding despite going 4-3 in their last seven games. The Bucks, though, has started a move up the standings by winning four in a row since coach Jason Kidd was fired.

[Mailbag: Will luxury tax become issue for Heat when trying to re-sign Wayne Ellington?]

[Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr. sent to Sioux Falls to help conserve NBA days]

[Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says Erik Spoelstra ‘should be on the All-Star team’]

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Five takeaways: With another big effort from the bench, Heat hold on against Hornets for another road win

Charlotte’s Kemba Walker tries to get around Miami’s Jordan Mickey  during Friday’s game in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The Miami Heat continue to play their best basketball on the road.

The Heat held off a late Charlotte Hornets rally Friday to escape with a 104-98 victory at the Spectrum center. The Heat led by 17 points with 7:30 to play before the Hornets cut the deficit to two with 1:31 to play. Charlotte, though, never got closer.

“That’s the NBA,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Sometimes crazier things happen in this league. With the volume of 3-point shooting, leads can go very fast. As soon as Kemba Walker hit that one three, I turned to the bench hand and said ‘Uh, oh.’ You have to be prepared to play 48 minutes.”

With the win, Spoelstra tied Pat Riley as the all-time winningest coach in Heat history. Both have 454 wins.

The Heat (14-14) have won three straight on the road and continue to shine away from home. Miami is 9-7 away from AmericanAirlines Arena, has the second-most road wins in the Eastern conference and is the only team in the conference with a better record on the road than at home.

Charlotte (10-18) has lost 15-of-20 and four straight at home.

Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson led the Heat with 16 points each as Miami had seven players in double figures for the third consecutive game. The two combined for nine 3-pointers, with Johnson making all four of his attempts and Ellington going 5-of-10.

The Heat received 51 points off bench, tied for the second-most bench points this season.

Walker led Charlotte with 25 points, but shot just 8-of-22.

The Heat were without center Hassan Whiteside (bruised left knee) for the eighth consecutive game and Justise Winslow missed his first full game because of a left knee sprain.

The Heat host the Clippers at 8 p.m. Saturday, the third time they have played on back-to-back nights this season.

Here are our five takeaways:

Catching Riley: The victory is the 454th of Spoelstra’s career, tying his mentor and team president Riley for the most among Heat coaches. Riley was 454-395 in 11 seasons with the Heat, a .535 winning percentage. Spoelstra, who took over from Riley before the 2008-09 season, is 454-296 for a franchise-best .605 winning percentage. Spoelstra’s first chance to pass the Godfather of Miami basketball comes Saturday, when the Heat host the Clippers.

“That would seem like a misprint to me,” Spoelstra said. “Pat has meant everything to me as a coach and as a mentor. I want to win tomorrow night, I don’t want to pass Coach Riley in wins. We all think of him as a guy who should have all the records. He’s the one that’s built this, along with (owner Micky Arison). I’m just humbled to be there.”

Welcome back: Tyler Johnson missed Wednesday’s loss to Portland because of a migraine but Friday he was a headache for the Hornets. The Heat’s sixth man made all but one of his six shots and all four of his 3-point attempts. He scored 11 of his points in the second half, including consecutive threes late in the third quarter as Charlotte was attempting make a run and then opened the fourth quarter with his third three of the half. Johnson is playing his best basketball of the season the past two weeks, entering Friday averaging 16.8 points on 62.0 percent shooting in his past five games.

“None of us were really concerned, because he was doing a lot of other things that were helping us as well,” Spoelstra said. “He was playing good defensively, he was getting better at making some reads on pick and rolls. He spent some time in the gym and he’s letting the game come to him. He’s in a great flow right now. Love to keep him there.”

Heat hold on: The Heat took a 79-71 lead into the fourth quarter and opened up a 17-point lead on an Ellington three with 7 ½ minutes remaining. Then the Hornets mounted a comeback. But unlike Wednesday, when Miami was outscored 32-16 in the fourth quarter in a 102-95 loss to Portland, Miami never relinquished the lead. The Hornets cut the deficit to two with 1:31 to play but a Dion Waiters jumper stretched the lead to four points and the Hornets did not score again.

“We knew they were going to go on a run,” Ellington said. “They were going to give us their best shot at the end of the game. We withstood that.”

Air Jordan: With Whiteside still ailing and Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo unable to cover Dwight Howard early without picking up fouls, Spoelstra was forced to go to Jordan Mickey and the seldom-used big man delivered. Playing in just his sixth game of the season, the 6-foot-8 Mickey played a season-high 15:28 – all in the first half – contributed eight points and eight rebounds and held his own against Howard. Mickey matched his career high in points and his rebounds were a career best. Mickey was particularly effective working the pick-and-roll for a couple of dunks.

“When both of them got in foul trouble, usually it’s going to be me or Udonis (Haslem). He called my name,” Mickey said. “I have the mind-set to always be ready. It paid off. My teammates showed confidence in me. They trusted me; they got me some pretty good looks; I played defense, so I’m happy.”

Making home court an advantage: For the second time this week, the Heat have a chance to push their record above .500 at home. This time, Miami hosts the Clippers on Saturday with a 14-14 mark. Miami is just 5-7 at home, tied for the second-fewest home wins in the Eastern Conference, its last loss coming Wednesday to the Trail Blazers.

“We were talking about that the other day, most of our activity is on the road,” Tyler Johnson said. “It’s something we have to figure out, because if you’re going to win and make it to the playoffs, we have to hold down our home court.”

[MRI on Justise Winslow’s left knee negative, Heat  confirm; no timetable on return]

[Could two-big look continue when Hassan Whiteside returns?]

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Pat Riley on Heat’s start, NBA defense, Adebayo and Winslow, being inducted into Miami chamber Hall of Champions

MIAMI – Pat Riley knows this is not the NBA from his heyday as a coach in Los Angeles, New York and with the Miami Heat.

So when the Heat president sees his team’s defense ranked 22nd in the league with a 107.1 rating and 19th allowing 108.5 points per game after four games, he knows other factors go into those numbers.

Pat Riley was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions Thursday.

“There’s a fine line that a coach has to make a decision, when you want to play a pace game,” said Riley, 72, who was inducted into the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Champions on  Thursday night. “Look it was easy for me, it was so easy when I coached because I could stop the team by throwing two fingers in the air or a fist in the air and I would take 24 seconds off the shot clock, we would keep the score in the 80s. And sometimes when you’re breaking and running and going hard, and shots are flying, turnovers are happening, layups are being missed, whatever happens, what’s going the other way has to be valuable.”

Riley added once things are settled coach Erik Spoelstra “can either go forward further with it or he can pull back on it. He’s fully committed to it. I think we have the guys that are committed to playing.”

Riley’s teams were noted for their hard-nosed, bloody-the-opponent defense that tried to keep the scores in the 70s and 80s.

“When you control a shot clock on offense for many years like I did, then you can control your defense a lot better, because of the shots you’re taking and guys’ responsibilities,” he said.

“It’s a whole new world, it’s a different game. It really is. I’m excited to watch it, to watch it every single night. Some of the players in this league are exciting and talented and coaches have decided to go that way.”

Riley is not panicking after the 2-2 start that included a 117-110 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday.

“It’s early,” he said. “I’m not assessing anything right now. Let’s get Hassan back. That’s sort of a bummer.”

Center Hassan Whiteside has missed three games because of a bone bruise in his left knee.

Riley, though, is pleased with a couple of aspects of his team since it started training camp a month ago.

“The one thing about the team we see every single day and what we see every single night is it’s going to come hard, they’re going to play hard,” Riley said. “They’re bringing every night with effort and once the efficiency catches up with the effort, maybe some of that pace slows down, giving, I think, a real balance. But right now it’s just too early to assess.”

Riley also praised the play of his last two draft picks, Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo.

“They’re both young,” he said. “That’s the difference between lottery picks and not having lottery picks or picking in the 20s. … But I’m happy with both Justise and Bam. Listen, five years from now, I hope they’re going to be on the All-Star team.”

Riley was inducted along with former University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris, former Florida football player Carlos Alvarez and drag racer Darrell Gwynn. The ceremony was held at Marlins Park.

“The chamber of commerce for 23 years has been trying to get me to come, but I was so compulsively obsessed with basketball games I didn’t really want to do many things,” Riley said. “The chamber is absolutely vital to a community and they do a great job. It’s a dedicated group of businessmen and entrepreneurs and people who really care about the city of Miami. It’s an honor to be here”

Riley arrived in South Florida in 1995, hired by Heat owner Micky Arison as the president and coach of the Heat. Since, Miami has won three titles, with Riley coaching the 2006 title team, and played in five NBA Finals.

Heat players/coaches inducted into the Hall of Champions include Udonis Haslem (2016), Dwyane Wade (2015), Rony Seikaly (2005), Rony Seikaly (2005), Alonzo Mourning (2001).

[Heat rookie Bam Adebayo’s starting debut a ‘big ask’ against Spurs front line]

[Goran Dragic, Pau Gasol to have EuroBasket reunion tonight when Miami Heat host San Antonio Spurs]

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30 years of Miami Heat: 30 memorable moments from the team’s history

Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat makes a game-tying three-pointer over Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter during Game Six of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena on June 18, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Miami Heat will celebrate their 30th season in the NBA this year. Miami entered the league in 1988, and after few rough years, it has been one of the more successful franchises in the NBA, as one of just five teams to win at least three titles over the last 30 years.

In celebration of the Heat’s first three decades we bring you 30 memorable moments in team history:

[playbuzz-item url=”//www.playbuzz.com/adamhs10/the-30-most-important-moments-in-miami-heat-history”]

Miami Heat celebrate 30th anniversary in NBA: The Palm Beach Post looks back

30 memorable moments from the team’s history

Aboard the Imagination and in the Dynasty lounge, the Pat Riley era begins

The early years and an intern who now deals with multi-million dollar contracts

A look at how a group of South Florida sports fans became Generation Heat

Ranking the top 30 players in team history

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]


30 years of Miami Heat: Aboard the Imagination and in the Dynasty lounge, the Pat Riley era begins

Micky Arison, Nick Arison and Pat Riley of the Miami Heat celebrates the NBA Championship victory rally at the AmericanAirlines Arena on June 24, 2013. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images)


On a sunny South Florida day 22 years ago, Pat Riley was introduced as the Miami Heat’s new coach and president on a cruise ship named Imagination and in a lounge called Dynasty.

How appropriate.

Ok, the Heat’s history may go back further than that, seven years to be exact when the NBA granted Miami one of its four new franchises in 1988 and Lewis Schaffel and Billy Cunningham would launch this new adventure. But to many, even as the Heat begin their 30th season with Wednesday’s 2017-18 season opener in Orlando, the real beginning was that summer of 1995 when, about six months after taking control of the team, Micky Arison, the chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation, reeled in Riley.

Seven years of mediocrity was about to change.

“Pat’s presence has been the overriding factor in everything in Miami since 1995,” said Ron Rothstein, who has spent 20 years in the organization starting with being named the team’s first head coach.

“He’s made an enormous difference with his persona, his coaching greatness, his ability to organize and have a clear plan and go forward with it. You have to search hard and long to find someone who’s had a run like Pat has had in Miami. He’s in the Hall of Fame for a reason.”

Riley walked onto that stage on the newest ship in Carnival’s fleet knowing this would be different. Different even from his heyday as an A-lister among the glitz and glamour of L.A. — a nine-year run as head coach of the “Showtime” Lakers that ended with four titles and the Lakers becoming the hottest show in Hollywood — and four years amongst the celebrities of Madison Square Garden while leading the Knicks to four playoff appearances, including one trip to the Finals.

He was steering a different ship.

“The setting was cool,” he said about that initial news conference. “I remember the press conference and going up to the captain’s bridge. I remember my talk with the media. It just all felt different for me and I’m sure it felt different for them. I did have a track record that they could go back and say, ‘This guy might know what he’s doing.’

“When I got to Miami I didn’t really care where the team was. It was the vision and image that I had of where I thought I could take the team and the franchise based on the experience I had.”

Until Riley arrived, the Heat were known for a 17-game losing streak before winning their first game and for six losing seasons in their first seven.

To be fair, Miami was the first of the four expansion teams from the 1980s to make the playoffs, grabbing the No. 8 seed in 1992 before being quickly disposed of by Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

Still, everything was about to change.

“They made the playoffs once,” Riley said. “The whole thing, players revolving door, coaches revolving door, the infrastructure was not really up to snuff. As soon as I got the job I went down there and spent a month trying to infrastructure up whatever we could before the start of the season.

“Micky came in with a different approach, a different attitude. Right out of the box he wanted to try and hire who he thought was the best and you paid for it.”

The Heat gave up a conditional first-round pick and $1 million to the Knicks as compensation for letting Riley out of the final year of his contract in one of the most lopsided deals in sports history.

What has followed in Riley’s 22-year tenure as Heat president (including 11 as head coach) is 17 playoffs appearances, five trips to the Finals and three championships.

During that time, only the Bulls, Lakers and Spurs have won at least three titles and only the Lakers and Spurs have been to at least five Finals. The Knicks? They have advanced past the conference semifinals twice, and not since 2000. They have won one playoff series in the past 17 seasons.

“You have stable leadership at the top and that’s where it starts,” Rothstein said. “If you don’t have that I think it’s really hard to be successful.”

Riley went to work immediately upon his arrival. Within two months he acquired one cornerstone to his early years, Alonzo Mourning. Then, 3½ months after bringing in Mourning, Tim Hardaway arrived. Riley had laid the groundwork for the Heat’s first successful run and set the tone for what we would become accustomed to.

The Mourning acquisition may have been the most important in Heat history. It validated Riley’s arrival and instantly made the Heat viable. Riley believes Mourning was looking to join fellow Georgetown alum Patrick Ewing in New York at the time but Ewing, his their agent and Georgetown coach John Thompson convinced Mourning to try to lead his own franchise.

“There’s always a perfect storm,” Riley said.

Riley, though, would have to wait 11 years before the franchise’s first title, one in which the team’s most significant draft pick – Dwyane Wade – combined with another blockbuster trade acquisition – Shaquille O’Neal – to bring the first of three parades down Biscayne Boulevard.

With build-ups, tear-downs, and quick rebuilds now becoming the norm under Riley, the next significant day in Heat history was July 9, 2010, when LeBron James and Chris Bosh officially joined Wade to redefine the term ‘Big Three.’ What followed were four consecutive trips to the Finals and two titles.

But each departed in their own way. James decided to return to Cleveland. Wade wanted to experience playing in his hometown of Chicago. Bosh developed blood clots and has not played in an NBA game in 20 months.

And another era was born, one that Riley, even at 72, will continue to have his fingerprints all over, with help from his handpicked successor on the bench, and possibly someday in the front office, Erik Spoelstra.

“Thing happens,” Riley said trying to explain his success. “I don’t think it’s me, Pat Riley, because none of them knew me. A lot of people who don’t know somebody take a look at somebody’s record. I had a record of 13 years of having really good success and a reputation as a head coach and I think players want to play for that man or that organization.

“In the late 90s that’s what it was about. Players wanted to come to Miami and Micky opened the purse strings and agreed to the contracts. The next thing you knew we had a new arena and here we are in 2017.”

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Heat president Pat Riley on trip to bring relief to Florida Keys: ‘We couldn’t believe what we were seeing’

Heat President Pat Riley on a shopping spree last week at the Miami Shores Publix . (Photo Rise Miami News)

Pat Riley’s shopping spree at a Miami Shores Publix a week ago was not his only involvement in Hurricane Irma relief.

Riley, Steve Stowe, who heads the Heat’s charitable fund, and equipment manager Rob Pimental were part of a convoy to the Florida Keys last week to assist with relief. The group was gone more than 20 hours, making stops near Sugarloaf Key and Big Pine Key, two of the hardest hit areas from Irma.

“It was heart rendering to go out to these places and see these people,” Riley said today after the Heat unveiled Ultimate Software as their uniform patch sponsor.

“You don’t realize it until you get out there and see what was going on, especially going down there. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.”

And Riley is not through helping the state recover from the powerful storm. He announced today that through the Pat and Chris Riley Family foundation he is pledging $1 million to Irma relief. This is in addition to the $10 million pledged through the Heat Charitable Fund, Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation

Additionally, the Heat are encouraging fans to log onto youcaring.com/heat to donate.  The organization will match all funds raised.

Last week Riley was photographed pushing a shopping cart he was filling with items to purchase for storm victims. He made stops around the city to El Portal,  Miami Shores, Overtown and Little Haiti where he would hand out items before return to Publix for another load, and head to another part of the city.

Prior to his shopping spree, Riley awoke one morning thinking he was just going to be buying food to be put on trucks and shipped to the Keys when he became a part of the recovery effort. Riley, Stowe and Pimental jumped in a van and followed three semi-trailer trucks that were loaded with relief items.

“I didn’t know that was going to happen,” he said. “I was just going out to get some water and rice and beans and spam and then it just ended up. Just was part of the spirit.

“I went in and became part of what everybody else was doing,” he said. “Most of them were first responders.”

Since, Riley has been paying close attention to the recovery efforts in the  Keys.
“What I saw was beyond what I thought,” he said. “These were certain areas that needed a little bit more help initially.

“Now to listening to the mayor (of Key West) and listening to people from Key West, they are so resilient saying we are going to have this done in three or four months and they got so much more to put together.”

Riley updated the damage that was done to the outer membrane of the Heat’s practice facility. He said the roof started leaking in several spots but a team of Heat employees who stayed at AmericanAirlines Arena during the storm scrambled to find trash cans to spread around the practice floor to catch the water.

“They saved the court,” Riley said, adding that if they had not acted the floor would have needed repairs, which would have taken some time.
Although the Heat start camp Tuesday, they will be training at Florida Atlantic University on Boca Raton for five days.

[Miami Heat individual game tickets on sale to general public Friday]

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[A look at each player on the Miami Heat’s roster: Who’s on the roster? Who won’t be back?]

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